#6: Some of Our Plutonium is Missing

by Project Censored

Inefficiencies of nuclear safeguarding techniques and ambiguities concerning the accountability of nuclear materials poses a real threat to the safety of the American public … and one of which they are little aware. Citing findings from . a General Accounting Office report, the author/researcher, Barbara Newman, pointed out in the Nation several cases of inadequate safeguarding at nuclear plants–in­cluding the use of employee honor systems in lieu of posted guards, the lack of effective security screening for new employees, and the strategic “outmanning” of perimeter sentry guards. Also noted is the lack of a credible inventory system to accurately tabulate amounts of uranium and plutonium.being processed. So lax is the current method that the government cannot account for 150,000 pounds of nuclear mat­erials; 11,000 pounds of which is weapon-grade quality. For comparison, 4.4 pounds of plutonium is sufficient to make a bomb large enough to level a city of 100,000 people. Furthermore, any quantity of plutonium is a carcinogen and ‘a lethal poison. In short, poor government management has allowed the security situation to degenerate to the point that nuclear supplies can be pilfered by employees, plants can be seized by terrorists, and private organizations involved with atomic energy go virtually un­regulated. Corroborating Barbara Newman’s 1976 warning is Jack Anderson’s recent re­velation of a secret inch-thick congressional study titled “Nuclear Proliferation and Safeguards.” Prepared by the Congressional Office of Technology Assessment, it warns that mankind itself is threatened by an appalling lack of nuclear safeguards. The sparse coverage given our “missing plutonium” in 1976 qualifies this story for nomin­ation as one of the “best censored” stories.

SOURCE: “Some of Our Plutonium is Missing” by Barbara P. Newman. Nation, Oct. 23, 1976.

“Report warns nuclear theft danger real” by Jack Anderson and Les Whitten. Santa Rosa Press Democrat, March 27, 1977.